Villages in Central Java on the mend after volcanic eruptions

“We are like husband and wife,” Tamanagung village chief H. Asrori Widarto said to a roomful of laughs, looking over at Yatin, the head of Ngargomulyo village.

Widarto was referring to the close relationship between the two Central Java communities, which are part of a UNDP-supported Sister Village project that connects sites at high risk of impact from an eruption of Mount Merapi to those with less. As a result, thousands of people now have evacuation plans and routes, giving them better protection against future disasters. Residents in their “sister” villages have agreed to provide shelter, food, and other daily essentials when the next disaster strikes.


  • UNDP Sister Village project connects villages at risk from a Merapi eruption to partner villages
  • Thanks to the project, more than 10,000 villagers are now better protected against future disasters
  • The Sister Village programme is part of disaster risk reduction efforts after the 2010 Merapi eruption, and includes planned evacuation routes, shelters, and space for livestock
  • Local government and UNDP have helped establish a Village Information System (VIS) that collects essential population data and communicates emergency instructions during a disaster
  • Two sister villages and VIS users, Tamanagung and Ngargomulyo, have forged a close relationship and are working at home enterprises, creating new sources of income

“During the Merapi eruption we weren’t ready. We were surprised and panicked,” Yatin said. Now, the people of Ngargomulyo know there is a disaster warning system, a safe place for them to stay, and, importantly, space for their cattle.

Lying in one of the world’s most populated areas, Mount Merapi is a highly active volcano, its last eruption in 2010 causing 38 deaths and displacing more than half a million people.

Following the 2010 eruption, a major impediment to safe evacuation was villagers’ fears for their cattle – for many their primary source of income. In recovery planning, methods to safely prepare for the evacuation of both people and animals was of primary concern, for some residents perished after returning to care for their livestock.

Joko Sudibyo, head of the Emergency and Logistics branch of the Magelang Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), discussed the difficulties in planning for the evacuation of cattle, and said it was an important issue for the community. “This is what we think about,” he added.

In disaster preparedness efforts in the areas around Merapi, local government and the UNDP have worked together to create a Village Information System (VIS) that includes population data, infrastructure information, and livestock numbers. The VIS is a constantly updated communication tool that includes SMS broadcasts, and has transformed the ability of village and district governments to prepare for and react to natural disasters.

At a VIS demonstration at the BPBD, Magelang district head Zaenal Arifin said, “We are disaster prone, that’s why we need help from UNDP.”

That UNDP help has resulted in 32 MOUs between sister villages, 12,415 families in Central Java impacted by the VIS project, and a public commitment by the governor of Central Java to earmark approximately 700 million IDR (US$53,500) to roll out the VIS across a province of 33 million.

These disaster management programs also have had more pointed, local impacts. At a meeting between representatives of the two villages and UNDP resident representative Douglas Broderick, a table laden with food was on display. Snakefruit sweets, fermented rice desserts, leaves that thrive on the slopes of the mountain battered and fried – the products of home industries in Magelang were tasted and discussed as one of the ways locals were creating new sources of income.

“We are looking at ways to duplicate the [Sister Village] programme in other situations both in Indonesia and the region. The programme can be used as an example in other disaster-prone areas around the world,” Broderick said.

Visiting UNDP Associate Administrator Gina Casar echoed those views, adding that the sister villages were an example of how UNDP is making a “difference” in a country like Indonesia.

“Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world and I am very pleased to know there is a disaster management system at the local level,” Casar said.

As the UNDP looks to Tamangung and Ngargomulyo as models for disaster preparation beyond Merapi’s slopes, the villages have made the Sister Village project their own, referring to it by the name they have coined for it in Javanese – paseduluran desa – definitely the most local of adaptations.

Story by: Deanna Ramsay - UNDP


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